July 15--CULLMAN -- Local lawmakers say concerns about court-related fees enacted by the Legislature may be up for changes in the next session.
At any rate, Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Vinemont, said the fees are scheduled to end in 2015.
Cullman County Sheriff Mike Rainey specifically targeted the act that levies an additional $35 filing fee on bail bonds, with limited exceptions for minor traffic offenses and multiple charges arising out of the same set of facts or incident. The fee must be paid within two business days from the time of execution of the bond. The fee is also non-refundable, regardless or guilt or innocence, according to the act.
Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman, said he voted against the bill and believes it could cause more crowding in jails because some people may not be able to afford the extra cost.
"I feel the same the sheriff does. The fee is nothing more than a tax," Bussman said. "The judicial system is one of the branches of government that should be funded. I think we should have funded it and found another area to cut in the General Fund."
Bussman said he wants to see the act repealed and the Legislature move forward with providing the necessary funding for the judicial system to operate.
"It's hard enough to get through the court system. Many of the people who come through may face multiple charges. This will make it harder for them to afford to bond out. They will just have to sit in jail at a greater cost to the sheriff," Bussman said.
Oden's view differs from that of Bussman.
"I voted for it to save our court system from going down to operating just a couple of days a week. That would have caused a lot of problems for everyone involved, from law enforcement to the courts. There were actually other things involved in the bill, that was just one fee," Oden said. "I made sure it had an exit date before I supported it. It goes away in 2015."
Nonetheless, Oden said efforts will be made to clarify issues concerning multiple charges and about returning money if a person is found innocent when the new session returns in 2013.
"There will be some corrections in the next session. There was not enough money to do other than what was passed," Oden said. "We will also look at any areas that are unclear and address those."
Oden also disagreed that the fee was a flat-out tax on the public. He said he would not have supported an outright tax during the session.
Rainey said he keeps a copy of the 17-page act at his office and invites anyone to view a copy who is interested in the issue. He said he has no choice but to uphold the law because of his position as sheriff.
The law went into effect June 21.
--David Palmer may be contacted at 256-734-2131, ext. 213, or email@example.com.
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